Friday, September 08, 2006

The meaning of the word "Relationship"

One of the challenges in communication is to be clear in a world where people WANT to lie with words. Sometimes weasel words and phrases are easy, "it appears" is a good one. And sometime you can use a perfectly good word, take the accepted meaning to most people and use it with a stronger word to get across a different meaning.

For example: Cheney used the word on March 16, 2003 on Meet the Press regarding Saddam:

"We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization."
Bush used it on the aircraft carrier deck:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship."

Ah, but what is the NATURE of this relationship?

I like to say, "Sure they have a relationship. Like my relationship with telemarketers or spammers. They call me and want me to buy stuff from them. I say no. Do we have a relationship? Yes. In one sense of the word. Would I feel it deceitful if they listed on their website they had a relationship with me implying that I buy their products? Yes."

In the political world of word parsing and word definitions you could say that Spocko has a relationship with Joe Telemarketer and Sally Spammer. And you wouldn't be lying, given one meaning of the word relationship. You would just be dishonest given the accepted understanding of the word by most people.

I bring this up because of something Holden at First Draft pointed out in this post:

Sometimes in blogging you focus so much attention on the big stories, like ABC's GOPudrama, that the little stories slip by unnoticed.

There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none.

It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government ''did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.''

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the report was ''nothing new.''

(extra points to Holden for the new word GOPudrama!)

Then I went and actually READ the report. There are all sorts of ways the word relationship is used. And it even contrasts pre-war intelligence relationships and post-war intelligence relationships. Starting on page 63 up till page 76 they talk about the nature of these "relationships" where meetings were listed. Intelligence gathering is not an exact science and if you really really want to use the word relationship (and all it's connotations) between the two, you can. And to people who want to justify a war costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, that is enough.

I think it's important to understand how dishonest the use of this word is in the Bush Administration. Because of how they used that word they can pull it out and use it without being called LIARS right to their face. They can say, "Tim, the study shows they have a relationship."
Sure. Technically correct. But what KIND of relationship? Big and bad enough to attack Iraq because of this "relationship"? I would say no.

To not acknowledge the twisted use of this word "Relationship" would be to confuse people from any kind of "moral clarity" they might have regarding who was our enemy at the time of September 11th.

I have to go now. My phone is ringing and I have to disabuse yet another telemarketer of the nature of our "relationship".


Eli said...

I think it's pretty clear that Osama and Saddam agreed to see other people...

3:48 PM  
spocko said...

Or maybe someone told Osama, "Bin, he's just not that into you."

3:58 PM  
Eli said...

Osama bin Lovelorn.

4:54 PM  
PTCruiser said...

Osama bin Forgotten

6:31 PM  
Interrobang said...

They had a relationship kind of like the relationship I have with my ex, where he keeps calling and e-mailing me and trying to get me to do things I don't want to do, and I keep telling him "What part of 'Don't call me again!' don't you understand?!" except for the part about how I'm talking about my ex, of course.

11:12 AM  
Jim said...

Better call Clinton and let him know that in addition to the audiotape they wanted to play of him, they better not rebroadcast any of his Cohen's remarks that Saddam was supporting Al-Qaeda. See

1:19 PM  
betmo said...

gingrich's strategy of word play. politicians have always twisted words- but he made it into an art form. i think that their bible is really a thesaurus. since a majority of americans can barely speak correct english(and yet want foreigners to speak it fluently) it is an easy task to twist words around without the people's knowledge. those of us who actually know what words mean- well, we tend to be on their shit list.

6:36 AM  

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